Aquaregia by Alison
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Category: Jack/Daniel
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, First Time
Rated: Mature
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: SG-1 encounter a race who hold somewhat different views and values to their own.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
'm not too sure where this came from, but I felt that I wanted to write about the sea, so write I did. As usual I wanted a J/D romance, some team involvement, and Daniel having to use his skills in a tricky situation. I'm fairly happy with the result. Sarah as usual did her stuff, and quercus checked for any lurking Briticisms. So you Americans don't 'take the piss' then? I checked my Brewers dictionary of Phrase and Fable, and found that 'to take the mickey out of someone' means to tease them, and that mickey probably represents Mickey Bliss, Cockney rhyming slang for 'piss'. Taking the piss alludes to the deflating of a person, as a bladder deflates when emptying. So there you have it! Aren't words fascinating. And following that, Aqua regia in Latin means royal water. Oct 02
Aquaregia

"We were a great team, the best." He looked his double in the eye waiting for some response. The brief nod reassured him. "I love 'em all, we've fought, bickered, worked and played for these past three years, and I'll miss every damn moment." He was silent for a while aware of his life slipping away from him as he lay, but determined to make sure that this other self understood everything. "I don't regret a thing, although it took me some time to come to terms with having my life stolen from me." He ignored the shake of the head and continued. "I think I went mad for a time, certainly distanced myself from them, but he brought me out of it."

He sighed, a deep feeling of sadness stealing over him. "He sought me out, wouldn't fight when I wanted to, just stood being there waiting until I was ready to talk." He looked up into the familiar watchful gaze. "He can listen you know. I'd always thought of him as constantly talking, but he'd never communicate half so well with all the people we meet if he didn't listen."

His double nodded, but remained silent, reaching out a gloved hand towards his head as if to check his temperature before hesitantly let it drop.

He looked back up into the dark brown eyes. "I think I fell in love with him then, but I didn't say anything for some time. He was still grieving for Sha're." He watched his double's mouth fall open. Smiling with grim amusement as shock crept over the all too familiar face, he continued remorselessly. "Don't suppose you want to hear that part?"

His double cleared his throat. "We're talking about Daniel here?" he asked incredulously.

He smiled tenderly. "My Daniel," he said stressing the possessive. " My strong, beautiful, loyal and brave, Daniel. Yes that's the man, although I've lost mine, I've lost Carter, another brave, beautiful soul, and Teal'c, the best friend a man could ask for. I've lost them all, and now I'm dying. I wouldn't want to live without them, they've been everything to me, but it was Daniel that I gave my heart to. Perhaps the three of us could have gone on without him, although it would have been like losing our soul, but I can't go on without all of them, and now I don't have to." He stopped, conscious that his energy levels were dangerously low. "Look after yours," he demanded. "Look after all of them, but especially Daniel." He stared into his double's eyes waiting for the slow nod before closing his eyes. "We were so alive," he whispered.

(

The UAV showed water, miles of water, before the outline of land filled the screen. Daniel leaned forward and peered intently at the VDU.

"Can you go there?" he asked Sam, pointing at a shape in the distance.

Sam nodded and zoomed in on the target. Daniel watched impatiently as a tall building came into view.

"Can we get more detail?" he asked, flicking his gaze towards Sam. She nodded again targeting the UAV nearer to the edifice. Daniel resumed his intent stare at the VDU, becoming more interested as he began to take in the building details. "It's certainly man made," he said quietly. "Just not bricks, stones or any of the usual materials." He watched as the edifice slowly filled the whole of the screen and just as slowly faded as the probe flew past.

They noted little else of interest on land before sea filled the screen again. Sam checked the flying time before turning the UAV around for the return journey. Daniel watched quietly as the now familiar terrain of sea interspaced with small islands was displayed. The return to the Stargate confirmed what they both thought, the Stargate was built on the largest island they'd seen, but surprisingly they couldn't see anything that showed occupation. In fact the tall building appeared to be the only sign of habitation around.

"I don't know that General Hammond will consider a mission to somewhere so apparently inhospitable," Sam said thoughtfully. "The UAV showed heat signatures, so there's life there, but whether it human or not I can't tell. Any ideas on that building?"

Daniel shook his head. "I'd like some stills, if you send me the appropriate section I can check it before the meeting."

Sam nodded. "Will do, give me a bit of time, and I'll mail you the info."

Daniel stood up from the chair wondering for the hundredth time why the seats were so damn uncomfortable. He stretched, working the kinks out of his neck, grabbed his cooling mug of coffee, and headed for his office. Once there he emptied the dregs of the mug down the sink, and filled his coffee maker. Satisfied that coffee would soon be available he turned on his computer, checked his e-mails, and returned to working on the report he'd interrupted to check out the surveillance flight. Absorbed in the intricacies of the Menrana rites and rituals, he took some time to respond to the ping of incoming mail, opening the attached file absently. The images of the tower engaged him so much that he left the report and poured over the stills in fascination until the sound of Jack's voice reminded him that he been unfairly coerced into accepting self defence training from his CO.

"Payback time, Daniel," Jack said smugly, glancing over Daniel's shoulder at the pictures on the screen. "Time to put your money, and your energy where your mouth is."

Daniel sighed, gazing longingly at his full coffee jug before obediently trailing Jack to the locker room and then to the exercise room. There were several other people in the room, and he and Jack exchanged a few pleasantries. They warmed up, then settled into the all too familiar, and still to Daniel's mind, irritatingly macho posturing drills before the lesson began in earnest. Daniel knew Jack was doing this for his own good, he knew that being younger and perhaps even slightly heavier, did not increase his chances in besting Jack. When he did begin to get the advantage Jack got sneaky, and, as usual, he'd be the one with his ass on the floor crying uncle. Just once he wanted to down the irritating son of a bitch and wipe the smug smile off his face. A particularly awkward fall and grab on Jack's part gave him the golden opportunity, and he took it, throwing Jack and keeping him down.

"Submit?" he asked breathlessly.

Jack made a sudden move, but Daniel remained in control. "Submit?" he repeated, trying very hard to keep the sense of glee out of his voice. Evidently he failed, as he felt the body underneath him stiffen then for some reason relax before tensing up again.

"Shit, the knee's playing up," Jack groaned.

Daniel remained where he was; despite the realistic sound effects, Jack's knee problem was a little too damn convenient.

"Mean it, Danny," Jack said, his voice sounding pained, tight and remarkably restrained, for Jack.

Daniel relaxed his hold very slightly, and found himself on his back beneath a grinning Jack. "Damn it!" Daniel exploded. "You fight dirty, Jack O'Neill."

"And you should know better, Danny boy." Jack stood up grinning down at Daniel. "But you're certainly improving." He held out his hand.

Daniel viewed it like a mildly interesting artefact before allowing Jack to pull him to his feet. "Really helps when you get zatted, fired on by staff weapons, and assaulted with hand devices," he muttered sarcastically.

"Your body needs to be kept as finely tuned and agile as your mind," Jack replied.

Daniel walked wearily towards the shower room. "It is finely tuned," he said somewhat affronted. "The amount of walking, running and jogging we do on missions has bulked me up immensely over the years."

Jack nodded, looking him over approvingly. "You're looking great, Daniel, good lean muscle and you're fit. I just know your sleep patterns, your poor nutrition and your work habits. You need physical time out, and I'm giving it to you."

"Geez thanks," Daniel muttered, shedding his clothes and heading for the bliss of the shower. "When I want my own personal trainer I'll keep you in mind."

"You do that," Jack replied, with a disconcertingly wicked smirk as he gave Daniel an amused once over.

Daniel decided that whatever was going on in Jack's mind he would be safer not knowing, so he turned his back on Jack, and started washing his hair.


A couple of hours later, refreshed, report written, and the building analysed to his heart's content, he listened to Sam present the information on the 'water world' to General Hammond and a far from interested team. Jack's fidgeting appeared to be distracting General Hammond, so Daniel leant sideways and poked him with his pen whispering, "Quit moving," into Jack's questioning face.

Jack stilled for a time, earning Daniel a grateful glance from Sam. When Sam had finished he pulled up the stills from the building, and zoomed in on a small area. "This appears to be made out of sea shells, fish and animal skeletons, fossils, pebbles, almost anything you could pick up from either a beach or the sea bed," he said pointing at each object on the building as he spoke. "I'm not certain what it tells us about the technology of the people here beyond the fact that they were able to manipulate marine resources.

He looked directly at General Hammond. "If there are still people here they might be similar to Nem, and he most certainly had access to advanced technology."

General Hammond nodded, looking at Jack inquiringly. Jack sat up and tapped his pencil on his paper pad. "I'm not keen, sir," he said. "I note Daniel's suggestion, and I know our remit is to explore, but the land masses appear to be small and far apart, and I'm really sceptical that we can learn anything of value here. "

General Hammond nodded again before looking at Teal'c. "Anything to add, Teal'c?" he asked.

Teal'c bowed slightly. "I have no knowledge of this planet," he said impassively. "Such a place with its vast expanses of water and limited land is unlikely to be sought by the Goa'uld."

"The landmass the Stargate is on appears to be quite large," Sam said helpfully. "The atmosphere is typical for most of the human occupied planets we visit, so I think we can assume that whatever lived or lives there is an oxygen breather."

"Not many trees," Jack said, almost snidely.

Sam nodded. "True, sir, but within a marine environment the algae and plants in the sea will be able to convert sufficient carbon dioxide to oxygen for any surface breathers."

General Hammond cleared his throat. "I think from the information we have that a survey is warranted. Collect the UAV and take eight hours to explore. I want you and your team ready at the gate in two hours, Colonel. If after due consideration you think you need more time, we can discuss it over the link." He rose to his feet and gave his dismissal.

Jack muttered something under his breath before looking Daniel's way. "I know you can swim, Daniel, but have you any experience with sub aqua gear?"

Daniel nodded. "Briefly. I took a PADI course as a student - we did some underwater cave exploration as part of the course. I always regretted not keeping my qualifications up to-date, but initially I couldn't afford it, then I didn't have the time."

Jack's expression lifted slightly and he nodded before turning to Sam." Carter?"

Sam shook her head. "Never had the opportunity, sir, although the interest was there."

Jack grinned. "Maybe a team Caribbean team holiday is required," he suggested. "Teal'c?"

Teal'c shook his head. "I have never had any need or desire to do more than swim, and even that skill is limited, O'Neill."

"You've got that neat trick with shutting down and going into hibernation, haven't you?" Jack waved his hand around like a bad magician fluffing a stage trick. "Could come in handy here."

"I was hoping we could use a boat," Daniel said innocently. Sam grinned, while Jack narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

"If you drown, remember it was you and Carter who wanted to visit this Water world," he said snidely, "and if Kevin Coster turns up on a raft I'm out of there."

"I'll remember that," Daniel said placidly. "Just don't forget your water wings." He smiled insincerely, and hotfooted it back to his office subliminally aware of Jack's half annoyed half amused gaze following as he went.


He was beginning to wish he'd taken his own advice as they unpacked the equipment from FRED. Islands dotted the horizon for miles, all fairly featureless apart from small clumps of vegetation, bushes and a few giant ferns. His initially enthusiasm had dulled a little as he realised how far the island with the tower was from the gate, and how damn hot the climate was. While it was true that he had gained PADI qualifications, he had forgotten to mention that the smell of diesel and too rough a passage made him nauseous. Unfurling the rubber dinghy and filling the tank had brought back the memories all too vividly.

By the time the UAV had been returned through the Stargate, and the dinghy and equipment readied, Jack had confirmed that there was nothing of interest on the gate island, so they set forth to explore. Twenty minutes into the journey Daniel felt a little more comfortable. A brisk, but not too strong wind kept them cool, although Sam had insisted they cover any exposed area with sun cream until he felt a little like an oil slick in places. He'd tied a bandanna round his neck and jammed his boonie over his head; his clip-on sunglasses reduced the glare, while the sea remained fairly calm. Reassured, he began to get interested in his surroundings. The land might be sparse, but the water teemed with life. He hitched himself forward and peered into the clear depths below him. Fish darted back and forth between rocks and cliffs of coral and stone. They all looked pretty similar to the multicoloured exotic fish he'd seen snorkelling and he could guess from the climate that the sea was warm. He dipped his hand over the side watching the pattern of ripples that flowed from it. Turning, he noticed that Sam was doing the same, and they shared a comradely grin before returning to their respective surveys of the depths.

"Worth making a line?" Jack asked out of the blue.

"Pretty small fish," Daniel answered absently. "Very decorative, but not worth eating." He caught sight of a dark shape out of the corner of his eye, and turned towards it. "We've got something large coming up starboard side though."

"Dolphins," Sam cried, pointing beyond the whale to a school of very dolphin like creatures scurrying towards them, jumping out of the water in display. Within seconds they surrounded the dinghy and began playing in the wake from the engine.

"For a strange planet, there seems to be a very high similarity in marine evolution," Daniel suggested, watching the dolphins with pleasure. He shook his head in wonder. "They're so beautiful and agile. I love the desert, but seeing dolphins and whales remind me what an abundance of life the sea supports."

"I've always wanted to swim with dolphins," Sam added. "Scientifically I know that I should take the tales of their healing potential with a large pinch of salt, but I can't help but be tempted to experience it myself."

"I find myself surprisingly pleased by their design," Teal'c said unexpectedly.

Jack sighed. "Let me just remind you guys that we're on a mission that you two," he glared at Daniel and Sam, "wanted. Swimming with dolphins is not exactly part of the mission objective."

"Spoil sport," Daniel murmured, leaning forward and holding his arm out further into the spray. A curious dolphin eyed it and bumped against it. Daniel moved his hand slowly down the sleek, damp skin suddenly feeling glad to be alive. "You're beautiful," he told the dolphin quietly.

"Well thank you, Daniel," Jack's amused voice brought him back to his companions with a start. "When you've finished waxing lyrical perhaps you'd like to take a look at the object ahead of us."

Mildly embarrassed, Daniel sat up, found his binoculars and focused on the slowly emerging details of the building. He could not seen any sign of an entrance, nor anything like a window, but he did notice with interest the way the building shimmered in the sunlight. He dropped the binoculars in his lap, and concentrated on observing the land surrounding the building. It was less sparse than the gate island. He could see the beginning of steep cliffs only a few yards away from the beach, forming an apparently natural harbour. A few minutes later he hopped out of the dinghy and helped pull it up onto the beach before making a beeline up the steep incline towards the building. It took him some time to climb, and he was tired, sweaty and breathless by the end. He took a drink from his water bottle, wiped his brow with his bandana, slipped his hat off his head, and stood for a second getting his breath back, and enjoying the brief cooling gusts of wind before beginning his inspection. It was smaller than he'd guessed, tall and narrow, more like a watchtower than any of the other functions he guessed at. Walking round it slowly he could still see no signs of any form of entrance. He circled it again, running his hand along the bumpy exterior, realising fairly quickly that he was not going to be able to distinguish any change that way; this search would have to be visual. He stood back and pondered the puzzle for a time, peripherally aware of the rest of his team busy in the background, before walking round the building once more. He could see no writing, no variation in design or materials, and came to two conclusions, either this was a monument, and therefore not meant to be entered, or alternatively the access was remote from the building and possibly underground. He walked slowly round the building again trying to disprove his theory, but he still could not see any variation or change in the surface that would suggest an entry. He walked towards the edge of the cliffs and scanned the horizon looking for anything similar, regretting that he'd been stupid enough to leave his binoculars in the boat. He thought he could see a flash of something bright and white on the horizon, but couldn't be certain.

Jack walked slowly up to him, breathing heavily. He took his cap off, ruffled his hair, replaced it then eyed the building with mild curiosity. "Anything, Daniel, because I'm letting you know this place does nothing for me," he said, swatting at a hovering insect irritably.

Daniel shook his head. "Can't find a way in, nor can I be sure what it is meant to be for. Can I borrow your binoculars?" Jack handed his over, and Daniel scanned the area concentrating on the point where he thought he'd seen something previously. He handed the glasses back to Jack. "Look over there, tell me what you see."

Jack complied and silently scanned the horizon as Daniel watched him. He frowned, dropping the binoculars and gazing at the building before him for a few seconds. "You think it might be a second tower?" he asked.

Daniel nodded silently.

Jack sighed heavily and muttered something under his breath. "Okay since we're here and have nothing better to do we'll check it out. Carter's quite excited by the composition of the soil," he shrugged. "Then again it doesn't take much to pique her interest. Can't see what an astrophysicist gets from scrabbling in the dirt."

"You could always ask her," Daniel said slightly reproachfully. He knew Sam had tried to explain the reason why she took soil samples, but Jack had appeared not to listen. Sometimes he found Jack's apparent scientific denseness amusing, other times irritating as hell, because he knew that Jack was both intelligent and very able when he damn well wanted to be.

Jack shuddered. "Too many multi-syllable words."

Daniel shook his head, amused despite himself. "Ask for the idiots' guide."

Jack grinned. "I did, it took me a whole minute to glaze over rather than thirty seconds."

Daniel snorted. "Some day I'm going to make you sit down and give me all your educational details, Jack O'Neill," he said sternly. "Then every time you act dumb I'll trot them out."

Jack grinned lazily. "I always aim to be underestimated, Daniel. Catches people unawares more times than I can count."

Daniel laughed. "I've never had to work at that," he said. "People take one look at me, see the glasses and make assumptions without any evidence to support them."

"The plaid shirts helped immensely," Jack smirked as Daniel raised his eyebrows. "You know that Carter and Doc Frasier, and apparently even Cassie, have been itching to burn the plaid shirts and forcibly take you shopping."

Daniel shook his head. "No, and how do you know anyway?" He looked questioningly at Jack.

"My opinion was sought on male sartorial elegance," Jack drawled.

"Have they seen some of your hats?" Daniel asked incredulously. Jack loftily ignored him so Daniel drew another breath, and continued. "I suppose if what you say is true it might explain some of the birthday and Christmas presents they've given me." He frowned remembering Jack's hidden insult. "What's wrong with plaid shirts anyway, I've only got a few, and I'm rather fond of them!"

Jack shuddered. "I'm not answering that on the grounds that it might be held against me, Daniel. Come on, since you can't get in that tower or whatever, let's find out what Carter's enthusing about before we set sail again."

Daniel glanced back at the tower before taking the steep path down towards Sam and Teal'c. By the time they reached them Sam was screwing the top on her last specimen bottle. "Finished, sir," she said, packing the bottle into her backpack. "Did you find anything interesting?"

Jack shook his head. "It's smaller than the one with the Stargate on, and far more varied in vegetation, but I've not seen any signs of life except damn insects." He swatted at another hovering bug before continuing. "The cliffs look worth exploring, but I think we'd get a better view from the boat." He marched off towards the dinghy.

"Have you discovered the purpose of the building?" Sam asked Daniel as they followed

Daniel shook his head. "As you can see it's some kind of a tower, and quite honestly it might just be a kind of monument. I couldn't find an entrance."

"Might it not be a marker?" Teal'c asked.

Daniel nodded. "Yes, I think that's quite likely, and I think there's another one some way off - I checked it with Jack, and he appeared to agree."

Jack waved them over. "We'll circle the island, and then head towards the next marker. Anything you want to check over, Carter?"

Sam furrowed her brow in thought. "I'd like to look at the cave structure, take some mineral samples."

"Fine, the caves will give us some relief from this heat." He waved them in, started the engine and sat back in control of the rudder looking remarkably content. Daniel knew he loved fishing, and he had a sudden image of Jack half asleep in a boat, fishing rod fixed to the side, open can of beer within reach, and a cooler full of food and drink. Jack's idea of heaven! He turned his attention to Teal'c who looked anything but content. Obviously fishing and sailing were not pursuits that Teal'c felt comfortable with. Sam in contrast looked comfortable and keen.

Jack slowed the boat and approached the cliffs cautiously. The sea was so clear they could see down to the sand at the bottom. The first cave was small and dark with little of interest, but as they moved further away from the entrance the caves increased in size and complexity. The last one was massive, dark and very smelly. Daniel flipped his shades up and trained his flashlight around the cave picking out dark shapes as he did so.

Sam sniffed, concentrating her beam on one of the shapes. "We're in some kind of sea mammal cave, maybe sea lions," she muttered. "I've seen something like this on the Californian coast, and I certainly recognise the smell. Can we get any closer, sir?"

Jack moved the boat nearer to the dark shape, and cut the engine. As he got used to the silence, Daniel began to be aware of the slapping of the waves against the rocks and boats, and a rustling in the caves' furthest reaches. A splash echoed loudly nearby, and training his flashlight in the area Daniel saw a head bobbing. The head came towards them and a long face covered in sleek brown hair and with enormous brown eyes gazed at them. Curiosity brought it nearer, and it floated next to them, touching the boat with its nose. Daniel tentatively reached out a hand, but the animal gave a bark, turned and dived creating a wave that rocked the boat vigorously. "They're curious, but sensibly cautious," he muttered quietly, holding onto the side firmly.

Jack restarted the engine and took them out into the sharp brightness of the sunlight. Daniel flipped down his clip on shades, took a deep breath of fresh air, and relaxed.

"Seal lions," Jack said with certainty, "or as near as damn it." He swept the horizon with his binoculars. "We're heading towards the next marker, and unless anyone can come up with something pretty damn exciting, I think we'll cut our water world exploration short cos I can't see us coming up with anything of any value."

Daniel shrugged. "I think it's fascinating, Jack, and I'd really like to see if we can see any further signs of civilisation other than the towers."

Jack shrugged. "As long as it remains calm we're okay, but we don't know the weather patterns here and I'm not having us stranded miles away from the Stargate."

Daniel nodded looking to Sam for any information. She shrugged. "I saw some possible storm damage on the island, some pretty windswept trees, so anything is possible. The Colonel's right, we don't know how quickly the climatic conditions might change."

Daniel nodded, returning his attention to the sea beneath him. As they moved further away from the island the sea bottom dropped away dramatically until nothing could be seen but darkness. The creatures changed as well, larger fish in shoals of flickering silver, their pattern of movement mesmerising. Darker, larger shapes hovered on the edges of the shoals, occasionally moving in toward the edge of the shoal and catching the stragglers. Further on, Daniel's attention was caught by strange jelly like creatures, luminescent tentacles trailing far into the depths.

"I'd forgotten how much I love the sea," Sam murmured by his side.

Daniel nodded. "I've not had much to do with it." He turned towards Teal'c. "How about you, Teal'c?" he asked curiously, aware of how little he really knew about his friend's previous life.

Teal'c looked down at him, shaking his head imperceptibly. "My skills are land based, Daniel Jackson, I do not feel comfortable in this environment."

"I told you, we need a Caribbean holiday, introduce Teal'c to the pleasure of beach life, surfing, ice cream, sun bathing, indolence and cocktails." Jack said cheerfully. "Drinking strangely named drinks with those silly umbrellas in them while seated in a swimming pool. Sheer decadence."

Daniel laughed. "You'd be bored within the day, and checking out the fishing boats by the next," he predicted.

Jack shrugged. "We could always sail to a deserted island or beach then snorkel and swim." He steered the boat deftly round some floating debris slowing the boat to idling speed. "Anything in there?"

Sam and Daniel leant over the side and scrutinised the mass of wood and shrubs. "It looks like an uprooted tree, sir," Sam suggested.

Daniel nodded his head in agreement, sitting back with a thump as Jack opened the throttle. They continued the rest of the journey in contemplative silence, Daniel still enthralled by the myriad life forms that swam before his intrigued eyes. Before they reached the island, he'd viewed the tower exhaustively through the binoculars, and could find no distinguishing features. It appeared to be a twin of the previous one.

By the time they'd beached, pulled the boat up the sand, and made their way up the slope to the marker, Daniel had already seen enough to confirm his initial assumption. He turned and scanned the horizon with the binoculars as Sam and Teal'c toured the base of the tower curiously.

"Do you think it could be a marker for the Stargate, a trail of some sort?" Sam asked him.

Daniel nodded. "I think I can see another one off in the distance."

Jack hitched his P-90 over his shoulder and patted the tower. "So far this is the only suggestion we have of any intelligent life, and even you must admit we can't keep hopping from island to island chasing towers. For one thing we need to think of retracing our steps in order to get back to the gate and report in."

Daniel sighed and nodded his head. "I know." He checked his watch. "It's just kind of peaceful here. Makes a change from some of the missions we've been on lately."

Jack shrugged. "I guess we're owed a boring stroll, could have done without the heat though."

"It's not boring."

Jack raised his hand. "Alright, peaceful stroll."

Daniel nodded, conscious of a small grin creeping across his face. They didn't have too many opportunities for 'boring or peaceful' strolls, and while he always looked forward to expanding his knowledge, and meeting new people, a mission like this with an on form and flowing Jack was a pleasure in itself. All four of them were relaxed and, despite their different reactions to the water world, happy. Daniel glanced affectionately at Jack, they'd gone through a pretty bleak time and to be honest their friendship had suffered, although he wasn't sure he knew why exactly. He'd gone off on a mission with SG-11, and come back to find his android duplicate, and the rest of his team's duplicates had been killed, along with Cronus. Some how, some of the distance between him and Jack, and yes even Sam and Teal'c, had disappeared almost over night. He'd been too happy to question why, although he felt the way his duplicate had 'died' might have been part of the cause, so he'd contentedly slipped back into his role of Jack's best buddy, while quietly suppressing his desire for something more intimate.

Sam peered at the tower. "If I take some samples I might be able to give you a time line or date on this building, Daniel."

Daniel nodded. "That would be great, Sam." He turned his attention back to Jack. "So do we try for the next tower and island?"

Jack shrugged. "We've time for one more at least, although I don't know what you expect to find, Daniel."

Daniel glanced at Sam busy chipping away at the tower. "Could we guide an UAV along the tower route, Sam?"

Sam nodded. "Shouldn't be a problem."

Daniel looked up at the sky. "I'd quite like to see this sky at night and check out the constellations. Some races, especially sea faring races used the stars to navigate." He glanced at Jack. "You'd probably enjoy that Jack."

Jack shook his head. "It's no use, Daniel. Teal'c and I are unanimous in our disdain for your water world, aren't we big guy?"

Teal'c lowered his head minutely. "I prefer the feel of soil under my feet, Daniel Jackson." He glanced solemnly at Daniel. "I would not wish to spoil your 'fun' however."

Jack laughed, clapping Teal'c on the back. "Lets get the next one over and done with then it's back to good old terra firma for you, Teal'c." He looked at Sam. "Ready, Carter?"

Sam nodded, filing her plastic bag away in her jacket pocket.

Daniel was content to remain sitting in the boat watching the marine life, competing with Sam to name each familiar creature, and suggesting something appropriate for the unfamiliar. They were accompanied by the friendly and inquisitive dolphins, who again permitted Daniel to touch their snouts. Sam joined him in the petting until Jack complained they looked more like a leisure cruise than a group of experienced explorers.

When they arrived at the island they disembarked, and headed for the third tower, ascertaining that it was identical to the others. Finding much needed shade, they drank and ate a little while Daniel ruminated on the towers' purpose. When he'd finished eating he checked the horizon, but could not see another tower anywhere. He dropped back down next to Sam.

"Can you think of any reason to carry on?" he asked Sam quietly.

"I could always try blinding him with science," Sam said equally quietly, "but as we both know, he's only dense when it suits him, and I don't think it suits him to stay here, Daniel."

Daniel sighed. "I know." He leant against the palm tree they were resting under and viewed the sea wistfully. "I'd love to go for a swim, but I can't think of any decent reason to get Jack to agree to exploring underwater. I've not seen anything that might suggest ruins." He adjusted his shades and turned his attention back to Sam. "It does strike me as somewhat peculiar that we haven't found any sign of habitation so far, but I remind myself every time we go through the Stargate that the area we're arrive in is a minute part of the whole planet. It also leads me to that constant question as to why the Ancients built the gates and left them where they did."

Sam nodded. "This one was on the Abydos cartouche, so we can assume that Goa'uld have been here."

"Teal'c said that the Goa'uld would not be interested in a world like this," Daniel reminded her. "Although maybe it's changed since the Ancients built the gate."

Before Sam could answer, Jack called them to order and insisted that they return to the Stargate. Sighing, Daniel packed up and clambered into the dinghy. He accepted Jack's reason for curtailing the mission, they weren't exactly uncovering anything of any obvious value, but he was rather enjoying the stress free atmosphere, particularly after the high stress level missions of the previous few months.

It was some ten minutes into the return journey that his comfort level dropped, and he began to feel that he was being watched. Turning to check with his companions, he realised that he wasn't alone; Jack was steering with one hand, his P-90 cradled in his other. Teal'c sat as straight as ever, staff weapon at the ready, while Sam had ceased sea gazing, and was viewing the area with suspicion. Despite their high level of alertness, the attack took them totally by surprise, and within seconds they were helpless, bound, blindfolded and gagged and pushed to the bottom of their dinghy.

Daniel strained to hear anything to help him know who had captured them, and why, but their attackers maintained silence except for a constant clicking sound. He realised that he hadn't even glimpsed their attackers, just getting an impression of a humanoid shape before being deprived of his sight and speech.

By the time they arrived at their destination, Daniel was stiff, worried and belatedly aware that his glasses had vanished. He was hauled to his feet, again in silence, and pushed forward. He resisted, not liking the thought of being manhandled without being able to see where he was going, and was shoved again. Gritting his teeth, he stumbled forward into a body. His bound hands were grasped, and he was propelled forward. As he walked, he began to hear sounds of water, sandaled feet and muted voices. He could also smell something, but couldn't quite put a name to it. He sensed when they came to a large opening by the echoes, and was prepared when on stopping he was pushed to his knees. The blindfold and gag were removed, and he blinked in the low lights of a room. As his eyes adjusted he slowly began to appreciate the beauty of the place. The walls were smooth, but he sensed that they were in caves, not a manmade building. The lighting flickered around the nooks and crannies pooling in certain areas and tricking his eyes into seeing shapes and designs that vanished when he moved his head a little further. Shells covered many of the walls, and the centrepiece was a large, ornate shell on which sat an imperious looking woman who appeared to be viewing them with fascination. He glanced at his colleagues, Jack and Teal'c were similarly bound and kneeling next to him, while he was pleased to see Sam standing unaided and unfettered. As he took in the rest of the people he realised that all the important, well-dressed people were female. The guards and servants were male, which probably explained why Sam was free and they were not.

He took a second look at the woman, wishing earnestly for his glasses. She was pale, very pale, bald, with large eyes and small ears. A green crest crept up from her neck to the top of her head. She caught him looking at her, and smiled, or he assumed it was a smile, showing pointed teeth. She wore a cloak and simple short tunic, displaying long, pale elegant limbs with webbed feet. Despite her baldness she was undeniably attractive. He felt Jack move irritably next to him.

"Why have you taken us?" Jack demanded. A hand clamped over his mouth and pushed his head down firmly. Sam started towards him, but was prevented by the woman standing next to her.

"You allow your boys considerable freedom, Major Carter," the woman on the throne said, her English flawless, but with a hissing sibilant sound.

Sam blinked at her, looking over towards the three of them uncertainly.

"Boys?" she asked slowly, "and how do you know my name?"

The woman gave the full-toothed smile again. "My people have observed you since you came through the metal ring, Major Carter. We heard you speaking the language of the false ones, and we saw that you came with a warrior of the false ones, but your behaviour was not as we expected."

"Why do you call it the language of the false ones, but speak it yourself?" Daniel asked curiously.

The woman looked down at him. "Boy, you may be very pleasing to the eye, but even that does not give you the right to speak before your betters without permission."

Daniel blinked, right, they were going to have fun here. He ignored the muffled snort of derision from Jack, and kept his gaze fixed on the woman. Lowering his gaze he bowed and asked. "Do I have permission to ask a question?" He kept his head bowed feeling that a show of subservience might get him further.

The woman trilled, and stood from her shell chair. "Perhaps I was wrong, Major Carter. This boy certainly knows the proper ways of respect." She walked towards Daniel, pushing his chin up with her hand. "What do you wish to know, pretty boy?"

Daniel sighed internally; Jack was going to give him hell over that description. He just hoped that she could come up with some equally embarrassing ones for Teal'c and Jack. "How you know the language of the false one, Lady?" he asked.

She patted his face and traced her fingers through his hair. "We were taught to know our enemy, boy. To know an enemy is to be both forewarned and forearmed." She smiled down at him. "Your pelt is soft to touch. My sisters and I wondered what it would feel like. Our boys, like ourselves, do not have pelts." She patted him again and transferred her attention to Teal'c.

"You are a magnificent specimen, large and strong, and have a fascinating colour. Your mistress obviously chose you for your strength."

Teal'c bowed slowly, but said nothing. The woman smiled, running her hand over his scalp. "You look immature without a crest, boy. Its absence marks the pretty one as a youngling, but does not suit you." She looked at Jack, who had struggled upright and was blinking angrily up at her, his mouth still gagged by the guard's hand.

"You are older, but your mistress seems to value your skills, boy." She traced a finger down his face. "You do possess a certain charm, I acknowledge that, but you need discipline."

Daniel glanced at Sam who was watching the woman's casual inspection of them with what looked like incredulous anger. Her face went carefully blank as the woman spoke to Jack, but her mouth twitched as she and Daniel exchanged glances.

"Lady, will you tell me why you have captured us?" she asked, carefully keeping her expression neutral.

"Curiosity," the woman answered briefly, her hands still tracing down Jack's face. "You have entered our world without permission, and through the circle. We have the right to capture and take your boys, and demand payment from your sisters for your safe return."

"My leaders would demand the safe return of all of us," Sam said sharply.

The woman finished her inspection of Jack, and with another caress of Daniel's cheek, returned to her chair.

"You will eat with us. Major Carter. The pretty one..."

"His name is Daniel," Sam said sharply. "Dr Daniel Jackson."

The woman continued smoothly. "Daniel will attend me, and will be prepared by my own boys. You may keep your boys near you, but they will be guarded at all times."

"Daniel stays with me," Sam said quickly.

The woman trilled, shaking her head. "Major Carter, you may have one of my boys in return if you have need, although I would have thought both your other boys could satisfy you for one night, but for now I claim the right of captor to take the boy of my choice."

Daniel closed his eyes in frustration, not liking the implication behind the woman's speech. He bowed his head again, and spoke to the floor. "Lady, it is not our custom to demand that which is not given freely."

The lady trilled again. "You cleave to your mistress, boy. I admire loyalty, but in this case your rights or customs are not relevant. Do not concern yourself with them." She waved a hand, and Daniel was pulled to his feet by two sturdy male guards. She spoke to them in a different language, and then spoke directly to Daniel. "My boys know a little English, allow them to direct you, and you will not be hurt. Fight them and they will perceive it as dishonouring your mistress and me. You will not survive their anger, do you understand me, boy?"

Daniel looked up at her and nodded. "Yes," he said shortly.

"You dishonour us by your lack of respect, boy," she said warningly.

Daniel bowed his head. "I understand, Lady," he said.

She nodded and waved her hand.

Daniel took a deep breath, and allowed the two men to guide him out of the cave and away from his companions. Looking back he saw Jack glaring after him, the desire to fight obvious in the tension of his shoulders, and for a second he had a mad desire to hold him in his arms and comfort him. Shaking his head in wonder at the timing of his inappropriate thoughts, he concentrated in walking where he was led. The cave narrowed into long, damp tunnels, lit by glowing shells. He could hardly make out any details before they arrived at a seaweed curtain. The guard pulled the curtain aside and barked something in his language, before pushing Daniel forward.

Daniel's heart sank. If he exchanged the sparsely clad men for women, the room before him looked like a seraglio. A large pool occupied most of the room, and around it a covered dais served as seats and beds. As he was pushed further into the brightly lit cave, he wondered how on earth this culture had managed to arise. Matriarchal societies while rare were not unknown on earth, but in all their travelling they had never found anything but patriarchal societies, or those so technologically superior that true equality had become a reality.

He was jerked out of his musings by a hand running through his hair. He looked at the owner of the hand to see a young man, his expression intent and curious, raise another hand and cup his head. Accepting that if he tried to fight he'd lose, badly, Daniel remained still and silent allowing the exploration.

The man grinned, saying something in his native tongue. The arms holding his relaxed, and his arms were cut free of their bindings. Daniel rubbed his wrists gratefully wondering what was going to happen next. The guards left, leaving him the centre of attention for at least ten natives. They viewed each other in mutual fascination, until hands sought to touch his hair again. When the hands started to pull at his clothing, Daniel closed his eyes and wondered what exactly he was going to do. He shook his head. "Please, no," he said quietly, wondering if they'd understand.

The young man who had first approached him grinned again. "Mistress say yess," he hissed, his accent broad and difficult to follow, but his meaning clear.

Daniel swallowed. He'd bet his bottom dollar that Teal'c and Jack weren't going through this, and wondered what deity thought it would be fun to make him the SG-1 whipping boy and court fool.

Hands fiddled with buttons, and explored Velcro pockets with enthusiasm, until he stood naked in the middle of them. Raising his chin he stared into the eyes of the instigator, and challenged him to do anything. The man grinned again, spoke a sharp command that had all of the others moving back, and slipped off the simple kilt he wore. He stood opposite Daniel lifting Daniel's hands on to his shoulders, and placing his hands on Daniel's.

Daniel blinked nodding his head in understanding, mutual exploration. Hesitantly he moved his hand towards the man's purple crest, and stroked it gently. The man smiled broadly and gave a gentle sigh as Daniel explored it further.

Daniel smiled a little. It looked like the crest was possibly an erogenous zone, and unless he wanted to give entirely the wrong signals, if that was even possible, he might do better to explore elsewhere. He traced his hands down the man's face, noticing that the ears were very much closer to his head and smaller than his own. As he traced along the throat he saw the man's gill slits, and gently ran a finger along the exposed ridge, watching the man's face as he did so. The man smiled again, running his hand along Daniel's face and neck and shaking his head.

As they continued, Daniel noticed that the man had no nipples. His caused much merriment and pinching, before the hands moved to picking at the few sparse hairs on his chest. The man's chest was hairless and featureless, presumably to help with swimming, Daniel thought, feeling a little skittish as the hands moved towards his groin. He'd been involved in such 'getting to know you' activities before, but never naked, and never quite so intimately. He'd noted previously that the man's genitals were not exposed, they appeared to be shielded behind a pouch, but as he looked down he saw that the pouch had peeled back to reveal a semi erect penis broadly similar to his own.

"I think that's enough now," he said, catching hold of the man's hand as they skimmed towards his own, mildly aroused and far too damn curious, penis.

The man laughed, shaking his head. "Look," he said, smiling. "Touch."

Daniel tensed as the man ran curious hands over his penis and testicles, patted them, grinned up at him again before dropping to his knees to run his hands down Daniel's legs, pulling at hairs as he did so. He stood, patted Daniel's ass possessively, and waited, apparently for Daniel to copy him.

Daniel took a deep breath, wondering momentarily what Jack would have done in the same circumstances, and did his own exploration, genuinely curious at the pouch, and the hidden testicles. He assumed that this was to keep the genitals safely out of the way when swimming. He skimmed down the hairless legs, and prodded the webbed feet curiously, before standing and patting the other man's ass in exactly the same manner.

Hissing laughter emerged from the other men, and Daniel found himself kissed and hugged. He hugged back, then stepped away. The man reached for his hand and guided him towards a dais covered in what looked like seaweed. He gestured for him to sit, and called out to one of the other men. A cup was thrust into Daniel's hands, and he was urged to drink. Sniffing the liquid carefully, Daniel raised the cup, and let a minute amount trickle onto his tongue. The resulting explosion of taste had him choking. He looked up from his coughing fit to see the other men grinning at him.

"Good," the leader said. He tipped the cup up, and encouraged Daniel to try again.

Daniel cautiously drank, thinking that it was rather like drinking the moonshine that Skaara had so proudly distilled. He managed another minute sip before lowering the glass to smiles and hissing laughter all round. The group seemed to relax completely after that. Some men drifted off to talk or, he saw with some bemusement, weave using the ubiquitous seaweed. Other stayed near him, occasionally touching him curiously, and fingering his hair until the leader tugged him forward, took him to another lower dais, and gestured. Daniel sat down and found himself in lip lock with the native. He gave a gentle kiss back before pushing his arms down.

"No," he said gently, smiling at the man's disappointed face. "Talk please."

The man sighed, rubbing his hands along Daniel's lips. "Talk," he agreed, not looking too happy about it.

"Daniel," Daniel said pointing at himself. He turned his finger towards the man and raised his eyebrows questioningly.

The man smiled reaching forward and tracing along the arch of his eyebrow, before sitting back to give his name. "Essteron," he hissed

Daniel relaxed, he was on familiar ground now.

(

Jack watched Daniel leave with a disconcerting sense of déjà vu. When he first considered his team he would have put Sam Carter in the most at risk category, mainly because of her sex, certainly not because of any lack of fighting skills. He would have been, and continued to be, wrong. The only time she had been at a disadvantage because of her gender, she'd won through on her own merits, and on the prison planet Linea had taken her under her protection, and left Daniel very much at risk for a multitude of reasons.

He sighed; he knew what drew people to Daniel because it drew him also, however hard he had tried to deny it. It had taken the death of his android double to make him accept his true feelings, and sometimes he felt like a damn moth to Daniel's unknowing flame. Even Major Samantha Carter's charms, and she had many, didn't quite compare. He contemplated her for a second. He loved her, he'd die for her and he very much appreciated her, yet he wasn't prepared to take that final step into making their friendship something more, not that he'd ever had any real evidence that she would welcome it. However, with even less 'real' evidence, if he was honest, considerable heart searching, and far more risk, he was contemplating taking things further with his male civilian teammate Not only contemplating but actively planning, although getting Daniel to read the signs, and get a goddamn clue was getting more and more frustratingly difficult as the weeks continued.

He sighed again looking up at Sam. She gave him a searching glance raising her eyebrows in question. He shook his head slightly. They could do nothing but wait. It was down to Sam as their female spokesman, and Daniel as their linguist to get them out of this. He thanked his lucky stars that he led SG-1. So many times their sheer difference had been a blessing, a curse also, but on balance a strength, and in this case he dreaded to think how a completely male team would have been treated.

The imperious female glanced down at him, looked back at Sam, and smiled. Jack held back a shudder, he could not deny that, despite her lack of hair, she was a stunning looking woman, but she gave him the shivers for some reason. He admitted to a typical male prejudice in not liking female sexual predators, and this lady, and her companions, was nothing if not predatory. Jack was not used to being summed up, and he guessed, dismissed sexually. He was a handsome man, used to being able to charm women, but obviously his charms were lost on this one.

"On your feet," the woman in question ordered.

Jack felt his knee twinge slightly before standing up, hands still tied behind him, and following Sam in the opposite direction to Daniel. They were led to a large well-lit room with a pool, surrounded by ledges and chairs. The woman gave a sharp command to one of the guards, and Jack's wrist bindings were cut from him.

"I thought you might wish to rest before the meal, Major Carter." She said. "Your boys may stay with you, or I could send in others to help you relax." She looked warningly at Jack. "The silver pelted one would do well to learn manners from one of my sisters. I feel that you are far too lenient and undemanding in your treatment of him. Your warrior and the one called Daniel seem much more biddable and respectful."

Jack watched Sam's face as she began to formulate a reply. He wasn't certain that he appreciated the mild quirking of her lips and she glanced quickly at him. "Colonel O'Neill has his uses, Lady. I would not be without any of my 'boys'."

The imperious woman nodded slowly, eyeing Jack a little less severely. "I see, I will leave you to enjoy their skills and charms then. Guards are posted outside of the room for your security."

Sam nodded. "Would you be willing to send someone to us to explain about your society?" she asked.

The woman looked puzzled. "Why?"

Sam glanced at Jack. "We have been sent to your world to explore and see if you have anything that we could trade with you for. I am the scientific expert, while my 'boys' are part of my team. Daniel knows many languages and is a specialist in cultures and people, Teal'c is a warrior and tracker of excellence, and Colonel O'Neill is a specialist in military knowledge and skills Together we explore and make contact with people such as yourself."

The woman looked at her in amazement. "Your boy Daniel is educated?" she asked incredulously. "How can a boy learn such things? And you allow boys such as these to develop specialist skills? Isn't giving boys such knowledge and authority dangerous?"

Jack bit his tongue to stop from answering. Okay he acted dumb, and sometimes was judged to be dumb, but this woman was really pushing it. He narrowed his eyes watching Sam coolly as she tried to answer coherently.

"My boys are as well educated as I am," she said slightly sharply. "We have very different skills and we compliment each other. Where I come from everyone has the opportunity to be educated."

The woman shook her head slowly. "I would consider an education a waste for one such as Daniel," she said. "He should be cared for in a Lady's keep."

Sam blew out her cheeks. "Just because he looks good?" she asked. "Are looks all that you measure a 'boy' by?"

The woman shrugged. "As the goddess taught us, I measure a boy by his looks, charms, sexual prowess, craft skills and strength. How else would one judge how best a boy could serve oneself and one's sisters?"

Jack looked at Teal'c wondering what the impassive Jaffa was making of this slur on the male of the species. He had never quite worked out Jaffa society, but he had a feeling that it was very hierarchical and structured with woman being seen very much as wives and mothers, and certainly not as equals. Teal'c's stoic look never faltered, but as he looked closer he could see that his eyes were staring off into the distance, and not fixed on a single person.

Sam shook her head. "I think we see things very differently," she said simply.

The woman nodded, looking quizzically at Teal'c and Jack. "So it seems," she said slowly. "Perhaps I will permit Daniel to explain some of the differences to me later, however here you and your boys will conform to our customs."

Sam nodded slowly. "Will you be willing to discuss possible trade?" she asked.

The woman frowned. "Not at the meal, no. I have not decided what to do with you, Major Carter. You are similar to us, but you are not truly a sister. We will not permit incursion into our land, and consider your actions trespass." She frowned. "Your invitation to the meal does not negate that fact." She glanced at Jack and Teal'c again. "Relax until my boys come for you and yours."

She strode to the door, nodded once more and left. Jack let out a long sigh. "I've been called a male chauvinist pig in my time," he muttered. "Incorrectly it must be said, but she just takes the cake."

Teal'c transferred his gaze from the edge of the room to Jack and looked inquiringly at him. "What have swine to do with this?" he asked.

Jack raised his eyebrows "More than you might think, Teal'c," he said darkly. He walked to the door and tried the handle. "Locked," he muttered.

Sam sighed. "I think we're going to have to sit this one out, and hope that they decide that we aren't a threat, sir," she offered.

Jack nodded. "I'm a little concerned about their reaction to any rescue team they decide to send through." He checked his watch. "We're due to report in less than four hours. I can't see the Bitch Queen letting us go in that time."

Sam nodded. "We're going to have to rely on my powers of persuasion, and see how much she lets Daniel talk," she said. "She's obviously taken to Daniel, so he might be a good position to intercede."

Jack sighed. "It's the position she wants him in that concerns me," he said, trying hard not to think of Daniel at the mercy of yet another predatory female.

"Daniel Jackson is both astute and capable, O'Neill," Teal'c' rumbled. "We must trust him to do his best for us."
(

Daniel would have been flattered by Teal'c confidence had he know of it. He had joined Essteron and his friends in the large pool, and had endured a game that seemed to consist more of attempts to drown each other than regain control of the coloured stone. As the others could breathe under water, he was at a distinct disadvantage, and was extremely relieved that he was a strong swimmer. Taking a deep breath he stood at the edge of the pool and dived in, slicing past Essteron as he did so. He glimpsed gold, aimed directly for it, ducked an elbow and grabbed at the stone. It felt smooth in his hand, and somewhat hindered his efforts to stroke upwards. Aware of a pressing need to breathe he kicked out pushing for the surface, breaking through near the edge. He gasped air into his lungs, grabbed at the pool edge, and heaved himself out of the pool before collapsing onto a dais nearby. Loud hissing, hooting and slapping caught his attention, and he saw his new friends clapping their hands against their shoulders. Essteron surfaced easily, pulled himself out of the pool, and strolled over towards Daniel.

"Clever," he observed happily. "Daniel not bad for land boy."

Daniel waved feebly, still struggling to regain his breath.

"Mistress be pleased," Essteron continued, "Likes Daniel, wants to add to her keep. Essteron like Daniel, happy to teach him to serve, and to play."

Great, thought Daniel wearily. A trophy land 'boy' and a new plaything all in one, I'm really onto a winner here. He watched tiredly as Essteron slipped away apparently responding to something or someone he hadn't heard. Early on in the game he realised that Essteron and his friends could hear and locate each other underwater, and that their hearing out of water was considerably better than his. He'd already concluded that he'd been allowed to win, but was too tired and exhausted to feel anything but relief that he didn't have to do any further diving or swimming for the time being. He grabbed at some cloth and began towelling himself down. Rubbing at his, thankfully short and easily dried, hair, he wrapped the cloth round his waist and began looking for his discarded clothes. He ignored talk behind him as he continued in his hunt, brought up short by the sound of his name. He looked up to see Essteron and the other 'boys' on their knees in front of the Lady. Her eyes were on him, so he swallowed, lowered his head and knelt. He watched surreptitiously as she touched Essteron on his crest, and pulled him too his feet. She kissed him affectionately before apparently grilling him in depth about something. That the something concerned him, Daniel was only too certain, as both of them kept glancing over towards him. A few seconds later feet appeared in front of him.

"You may stand," the lady said graciously.

Daniel stood, looking up at her questioningly. She smiled, and ran her finger along his chest, playing with his nipples as Essteron had. She called Essteron's name, and he approached them standing next to Daniel. She grasped both their faces in her hands and looked at them quizzically. Daniel blinked, finding the casual intrusion into his personal space more difficult to handle from her than he had from Essteron.

"Very pretty," she said smiling happily. "You look very much like my Essteron, Daniel, and he has long been a favourite of mine." She brushed Daniel's hair back and framed his face with both hands. "You will both serve me tonight, I will be the envy of my sisters, although arguments are already flowing as to the beauty or otherwise of your pelt." she stroked his hair. "The silver pelted one has also attracted admirers, although I find him too delinquent to contemplate."

Daniel savoured the word delinquent, storing it away to be used at an appropriate time.

The Lady dropped her hands from his face and tweaked at his nipple. "Can you suckle your young?" she asked.

Daniel shook his head before wondering if he would be understood. "No, lady," he said simply.

She nodded, appearing to dismiss the matter as she turned to Essteron. "Dress Daniel like you, and teach him to serve, pet," she said affectionately. "I want you both to outshine all the other boys." She smiled at him mischievously. "Perhaps I will let you play together for a while if you do well." She looked slyly at Daniel, patted them both on the cheek, and left.

Daniel took a deep breath. "Do you have my clothes?" he asked Essteron hopefully, taking a long look at the man's face. He supposed that there were similarities between them, but not as many as the lady was making there out to be.

Essteron shook his head. "Mistress wants you in kilt," he said, pulling at Daniel's hand. "Make us pretty for mistress, come,"

Daniel went.

(

I feel like I'm at a damn meat market," Jack hissed at Sam, as he stood behind her chair in the large, ornate dining room.

"You seem to be considered prime beef, sir," Sam said straight faced.

Jack looked down at her. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that, Carter" he muttered, avoiding the eye of a very predatory female to his right. "Where the hell is Queen Bitch? I want this over and us out of here before something goes very badly wrong."

"I believe she is approaching, O'Neill," Teal'c replied.

Jack turned towards the sound of a horn to be greeted by the sight of the woman he'd named Queen Bitch making her way to the head of the table, escorted by Daniel and a male who looked startling like Daniel when Jack mentally removed the crest and added hair to his head. They were dressed identically, short white kilts, what looked leather bands around the biceps and wrists, and necklaces of shells. He looked down at Sam, and guessed by her fixed expression that she too had noticed the similarity. He looked back at Daniel raising his eyebrows in question as he saw the blue eyes squinting in his direction. A look of relief crossed Daniel's face, followed by a rueful look down at himself. Jack chanced a discreet thumbs up, and a quick grin, while grimly noting that Daniel looked far too good to be parading around in next to nothing.

A horn sounded, and all the women bowed their heads, while the men knelt. Jack eyed Teal'c, and followed slowly. A short speech, Jack guessed some kind of blessing, followed, the horn sounded again and the room filled with the chatter of women's voices.
He watched as men brought out food, and placed it on the tables surrounding the room. Movement from the top of the table caught his eye, and he watched Daniel as he moved towards the table with his companion. The other man gathered a shell like plate filling it with goodies while Daniel took a jug from another table. They walked back to the Queen, presented her with food and drink, and retired to stand behind her chair. Jack glanced at Teal'c, and down at Sam and shrugged. He'd never tried being a waiter, so now seemed as good chance as any to expand his horizons. He waited until other men began moving towards the tables, and went for it.

Peering down at the fish and shellfish before him, he wondered if Sam had any strong dislikes, because he didn't know what the hell he was giving her. He piled the plate high, and returned to place it before her. Sam muttered a low thank you, and viewed the plate with some consternation. Jack stood back behind her and smirked, affecting a look of innocence when she glanced up at him questioningly.

"You were hoping to be fed as well, sir?" she asked, gesturing at the over laden plate.

He nodded, watching as Teal'c gracefully filled her cup. "The thought crossed my mind."

"Do you think it is safe for us?" she asked.

Jack shrugged, glancing back up to the top of the table. He watched the Queen point to the floor, saw Daniel and his 'twin' kneel, and felt faintly nauseated as she fed items of food to both of them, playing with their lips, and stroking their faces as she did so. "I think Daniel should find out soon enough, Carter," he said quietly. She glanced towards the end of the table and grimaced. "Just don't get any ideas that Teal'c or I want to be hand fed," he said warningly.

Sam grinned up at him, picked up a claw, and leaning towards the women sitting on her right began grilling her about the etiquette of eating.

Jack let his attention wander, checking out the escape routes, automatically noting the armed guards, and all the while wondering how exactly the women maintained the balance of power. He'd not seen any evidence that they were stronger, better educated and more intelligent maybe, which must assuredly help, but strength tended to win out over intelligence more often or not, taking parts of his own world as a prime example. He was startled out of his thoughts by a hard pinch on his ass, and if that wasn't enough a hand crept round to his genitals. He grabbed the hand and looked up the arm to the owner. An attractive female looked up at him with some amusement.

"Very tasty, silver pelt," she said.

"Jack O'Neill, Colonel Jack O'Neill," Jack corrected, smiling winningly at her, and dropping her hand. "And so are you, baldy."

The woman blinked, a glimmer of uncertainty showing briefly on her face.

"Did you want something?" Jack continued, determined to keep the woman off balance for as long as possible.

The woman's face cleared. "Just checking the merchandise," she said a smirk crossing her face.

Jack shook his head. "The merchandise isn't on offer, lady. I never mix business and pleasure." The look of bewilderment on her face was priceless. "To be honest, where I come from, goosing is grounds for a sexual harassment case."

"Sexual harassment?" the woman echoed carefully.

"Feeling someone up without their permission," Jack supplied cheerfully, well aware that Sam had stopped eating to listen to the exchange, and the women seated opposite from him were listening intently.

The woman frowned. "Why would I need permission to check you out?" she asked him, "How can I be certain that you are worth pursuing without some prior investigation?"

"You ask me round for drinks, we get a little friendly, and then we decide whether we want to take it any further," Jack replied, somewhat facetiously.

"Further?"

Jack grinned. "We decide whether we want to get into bed with each other, or if we want to remain friends."

The woman looked at him incredulously. "You are a boy, what else would I need you for but sex, craftsmanship or guard duty?"

Jack shrugged. "I'm a man not a boy, lady, and I have a great deal to offer to the right person. You're just not the one." He nodded his head, and turned back to Sam, ignoring the spluttering coming from the woman. Sam looked at him a little wild eyed, apparently uncertain as to whether she wanted to laugh out loud or have a fit. The laughter began to win out, but she carefully camouflaged it with a violent coughing. Jack bent solicitously over her and pummelled her back.

"Don't choke, Carter," he advised. "Got to go slow on the food here, you never know what you might swallow." He had a suspicion that the normally calm, controlled and correct Major Carter, muttered 'bastard' under her breath, but wasn't prepared to swear to it. He straightened, looking up to catch the stony glare of the Bitch Queen. He nodded his head, looked down at Daniel still kneeling by her side, and smiled gently. Daniel's strained expression relaxed slightly, and Jack felt himself relax. He turned back to Carter, avoided Teal'c's quizzical, and far from approving gaze, and decided to quit while the going was good.

(

The meal had gone on forever, and while Daniel had gained a certain amount of information from listening in, most of the conversation had been fairly mundane and social chitchat. Essteron had smiled at him from time to time, and patted his hand, but otherwise the pair of them were ignored except for occasional petting and feeding.
He had felt very relieved when the meal finally ended, watching with a sense of isolation as Jack, Teal'c and Sam were escorted from the room under armed guard. The lady stayed to talk with a few of her peers, taking compliments on Essteron and himself with a satisfied trilling and more caresses, before making her way to the spacious bed chamber he was currently viewing with a sense of foreboding. Daniel was no fool, he'd seen enough evidence to realise that men were the sexual conquests here, and that he was acceptable enough to be considered fresh 'meat'. He was honestly surprised that the women found the three of them attractive, assuming that their hairiness and lack of apparent 'sexual maturation' would be off putting, but the way the lady was eyeing him as she sprawled in her chair, was sufficient to assure him that she found him attractive enough to contemplate having sex with him. Daniel swallowed, and looked away, watching Essteron as he removed his kilt and knelt beside the lady. She stroked his crest and kissed him gently, before leaning forward to whisper something in his ear. He kissed her hand, stood and approached Daniel holding out his hand.

"The Lady likes to watch us play, Daniel," he said.

Daniel sighed. He couldn't guarantee that the lady would listen, but he felt that he'd been sufficiently acquiescent up to now, and that maybe it was time to start making a stand. He smiled at Essteron shaking his head slowly.

"No, Essteron, we talk," he said. "Come with me." He held Essteron's hand and walked towards the lady, kneeling in front of her. She looked at him curiously. "Lady, I am flattered that you find me attractive," he said calmly, his eyes fixed on hers, "and I am pleased that Essteron likes me, but I am afraid that I cannot 'perform' for you."

The lady looked down at him questioningly. "Why not, Daniel?" she asked.

"Because while I accept that I have a curiosity value to you, I am not prepared to be seen or act as a plaything. You call me boy, but I am not a boy. In my culture a boy is a child who has not yet developed sexually or physically into an adult man. While my lack of crest might suggest a lack of maturation to you, I am in reality an adult male in the prime of my life." Daniel answered, holding her eyes as he spoke. "I have a job I love, and have studied hard all my life to understand languages and civilisations. You treat me as if I have no mind of my own, or that it is of no importance to you, and demand that I perform for you without once asking me for my permission or consent." He glanced at Essteron. "Essteron has been nothing but kind and caring since you gave me into his care, but that does not mean that I am willing to 'play' with him, and I am certainly not prepared to do so in front of a spectator." He stopped and watched her as she considered his words.

The lady sat still for some minutes, her eyes flickering between Essteron and Daniel, before she nodded once and sat up in the chair. She spoke to Essteron in their own language, and he stood and wrapped his kilt round himself. He walked towards that door, glancing at Daniel as he did so.

"Thank you, Essteron," Daniel said slowly in his own language.

Essteron stopped, turned back and bent down towards Daniel. "Pretty, Daniel," he said stroking Daniel's hair, placed his hands around Daniel's head and kissed him gently on the lips. He released him, brushed his finger along Daniel's eyebrows, bowed to the lady, and vanished through the doorway leaving Daniel and the lady contemplating each other thoughtfully.

"I find you too pretty to take seriously," the lady eventually said.

Daniel shrugged his shoulders. "You may be very beautiful, lady, but I have no problems taking you very seriously."

The lady smiled slowly. "I find myself rather liking you, Dr Daniel Jackson," she said unexpectedly, trilling as he opened his eyes wide at the use of his name. "Your mistress," she stopped and shook her head. "Your companion, Major Carter was insistent that I should name you correctly."

"Thank you," Daniel said sincerely.

The lady smiled at looked him up and down. "You are certain that I cannot show you how much you would enjoy sex with me?" she asked seductively.

Daniel was horrified to find himself blushing, making the lady trill merrily and stroke his face gently. "Despite your hair, Daniel, you are very sexy, and when you blush so becomingly you seem so delightfully virginal and appealing."

Daniel felt like a forest fire was burning along his face. At the age of thirty-five he was mortified to be referred to as 'virginal'. It just wasn't fair, Jack got delinquent, and he got virginal. He looked down at the floor trying to regain his composure, cursing the lady because he knew she was well aware what she was doing to him. He felt a finger tracing along his neck and then two hands swept down his back. The lady trilled again and grasped his head in her hands. Daniel bit his lip, and looked up at her very weary of the constant casual handling, but honest enough to admit to himself that he didn't cope too well with dominating women, particularly as it tended to remind him of his time with Hathor, and an experience he'd rather totally forget.

"You are cute," she whispered wickedly, and bent down to give him a very deep, long and passionate kiss. As he struggled to remain unaffected he heard footsteps enter the room; the lady grasped his head even more firmly, and deepened the kiss. Daniel grasped her wrists and held on for the ride. When she eventually let go he was gasping for breath. She grinned down at him, kissed the tip of his nose, whispered 'cute and sexy', closed one eye, then sat up. Daniel heard her talking through a haze of breathlessness and screwed hormones, eventually turning his head to see who else was in the room and had witnessed the kiss. As he met Sam's amused eyes he closed his eyes in resignation. The lady was a clever and ruthless manipulator, and not someone to dismiss carelessly. He mentally pulled himself together and turned to face a solid Teal'c, and a totally unamused Jack. Staring into the stony face, he wondered just what Jack was thinking about him, and wished for the thousandth time that his feelings for and about Jack weren't so damn complicated

The lady glanced down at him a smile on her face, caressed his hair and patted his cheek. "Daniel has persuaded me to listen to your request, Major Carter," she said still looking at Daniel, the mischief in her eyes beginning to worry him. "I would certainly be happy to meet more of your boys if they are as attractive as these." She closed one eye again, and raised Daniel to his feet. "I will concentrate better if you are fully dressed, dear Daniel. Essteron has returned your clothes." She pointed to his BDU's lying neatly folded on the bed.

Daniel nodded his thanks, grabbed his clothes from the bed, and retired to a corner to dress, very conscious of both the lady's and Jack's eyes on him. He returned to stand next to Sam, raising his chin as the lady eyed him with the same self-satisfied smile.

"Daniel has shown me that while he is most certainly male," she grinned again, "he is both intelligent, articulate, and mature. He tells me that the three of you consider yourselves to be men, and I gather from his words that our use of the word boy to describe you may well have caused some offence." She raised her eyebrows.

"You would be correct," Jack said shortly.

The lady nodded. "What does Queen Bitch, mean Colonel O'Neill?" she asked abruptly.

Daniel turned in some surprise to see Jack colour slightly. "Top dog," Jack said just as abruptly.

The lady stared at him.

"Top of the heap," Jack added.

The lady nodded her head slowly. "We have excellent hearing, Colonel O'Neill, and have heard much of what you have said. Alongside my observation of Daniel, and your behaviour when you think yourselves unnoticed, I must accept that your culture is very different from ours, and perhaps I should reappraise my views regarding the tales of our ancestors." She turned to Sam. "Major Carter, if we are to do business with you and your world, you must note that we will only negotiate with women. Daniel may return without a problem. We know him, and we accept his attempts to fit in with us. Your silent, handsome companion of the dark skin, would also be acceptable, but the Colonel is perhaps slow to learn new things?"

Daniel maintained a straight face with effort, aware of Jack casting a sharp look in his direction, but he could have told Jack that the stifled snort came from Sam not him.

"You don't think I'd fit in?" Jack asked sarcastically.

The lady frowned. "Lady Freeanl is certainly still complaining about your rudeness," she said darkly. She looked at him for a few seconds before dismissing him and returning to Sam. "I do not know what we possess that could be of use to you, nor what you posses that could be of use to us, but as long as the next team you send through are led by women, with men as followers, we can discuss that then." She turned back to Daniel. "Essteron had hopes for you, Daniel. He is clever for a boy, and I think has a longing for a companion in all things." She was silent for a while her eyes distant. "I think that is part of the reason why he is my favourite, he is far more than a pretty face, and I know I recognised that in you from the very beginning. I am sorry to disappoint him, but I think that you, your ideas and your air of independence would be far too dangerous for our society to deal with." She smiled again, the look of mischief that Daniel was beginning to dread, alight in her eyes. "I am as disappointed as Essteron at missing you both play together. I think that it would have been a very pretty sight."

Daniel felt the heat of embarrassment flame in his cheeks again as she licked her lips. "I wouldn't know lady," he said quietly. "It is not something I have ever done before." He swallowed conscious of Jack's intent gaze on him.

The lady nodded, casting another amused glance his way. "Return to us, Daniel, and we can give you many new experiences," she said seductively.

Daniel clenched his fists tightly before nodding at her. He didn't need to feel his cheeks to realise that he was still red, and he was beginning to be very tired at being the butt of all her jokes and innuendos. "Thank you, lady," he said insincerely. They eyed each other for seconds until the lady gave him a real smile, without any of the previous teasing.

"Ask, Daniel," she said gently. "I can see that you have wanted to know so much."

Daniel smiled at her, suddenly feeling a true liking for the strange, but beautiful, and intelligent woman before him. "I would like to know everything," he said, ignoring the groan from Jack, "but may I ask you again how you know English, and speak it so well, and is Essteron typical of your males?"

The lady smiled. "Essteron is special, Daniel. He is far brighter than most males, and very keen to learn. Our boys do not live as long as us, nor do they seem capable of learning as we do. We woman have kept up knowledge of the old language as much to give us a language to talk in without our boy's understanding, but mainly because the goddess dictated that we should do so, in order to 'understand and outwit our enemies'."

Daniel nodded. "Do you have a written language, Lady?"

She nodded. "We have records from the time of the goddess." She must have noticed his look of excitement because she shook her head. "They are only for the rulers and her priestess, Daniel. As a mere..., she hesitated, "a mere man, you would not be permitted any access to them."

Daniel opened his mouth to ask another question when Sam gently elbowed him in the ribs. He looked at her, and across to Jack, who frowned and pointed at his watch. Daniel nodded, returning his attention to the lady. "I have a thousand more questions, lady, but my companions remind me that we need to return to the Stargate before other men come to your world looking for us."

The lady nodded, climbing to her feet. "I think that would be best for all concerned," she agreed. "I must ask that you permit us to blindfold you and return you to the island with the gate on."

She looked at Sam, who looked at Jack. He stared challengingly at the lady. She sighed, "I really cannot get used to seeing a boy in control," she said. "We will only blindfold you, not bind you this time."

Jack nodded. "We have a deal," he said unsmilingly.

The lady blinked before turning back to Sam. "If you wish to talk with us, come back with an all female team to the island with the ring on it and wait for us to contact you. Daniel may accompany you, but no other boy for the time being. I am considered wise and perhaps too willing to accept the unacceptable, but even I draw the line at negotiating with boys."

Sam nodded, avoiding looking at any of her 'boys' as she did so. The lady walked to the door indicating that they were to follow her.

(

Jack hated the feeling of dependence the blindfold created. The bitch queen was true to her word, and they were carefully walked back to the boats, and swept off to the smell of the seawater, the feel of the wind and the sun, the sound of the sea, and the slightly briny taste in the air. All that was missing was his vision, and Jack could not relax. He could hear a gentle murmuring to his right, and realised that he could hear Daniel talking very quietly to someone, but otherwise the voyage remained largely silent.

He felt a great sense of relief when the boat stopped, but the blindfolds were not removed as they were transferred into another boat. Putting out a hand to steady himself he felt the familiar texture of the rubber dinghy, and relaxed a little as the engine on the boat roared into life, and they set off again on their sightless voyage. Some time later, his blindfold was removed, and he blinked in the strong sunlight. The boat held the four of them, and the male he recognised as Essteron. He was piloting the boat, his attention as much on Daniel as on the horizon. He glanced at Jack, smiled briefly, and spoke quietly to Daniel. Daniel, already free of his blindfold, answered softly, and Jack was unable to hear anything of their conversation. He watched them curiously, and somewhat jealously as he observed how relaxed they looked in each other's company, until he saw the Stargate come into view. The boat beached, and he scrambled out, heaving his backpack out.

Daniel stepped out followed by the native. "Essteron wants to take the boat, Jack," he called

Jack glanced at the man, and down at the boat. "Fine," he said briefly, and checking that Sam and Teal'c were okay, headed rapidly for the Stargate. When he looked back, Daniel was still talking to Essteron, and for some reason he felt annoyed.

"Move it, Daniel," he yelled somewhat irritably, ignoring a surprised look from Sam, and a raised eyebrow from Teal'c.

Daniel glanced at him, hauled his backpack up, and held out his hand to Essteron. Essteron looked at it suspiciously before ignoring it, and grabbing Daniel in a hug. Jack watched restlessly from the DHD as Daniel slowly raised his arms and returned the hug, stiffening slightly as the hug segued into a kiss. To Jack's relief, Essteron let go of Daniel, got back in the boat, fired the engine, and left them. Daniel headed up the slope to the Stargate.

"Dial us home," Jack said briefly. He kept a watchful eye on the sea until the gate flared into life. Casting one last disapproving look at the endless blue, he headed for the gate, watched his team go through and followed them without a backward glance.

Some time, numerous tests, and a shower later, he felt his irritability with Daniel increase as he sat listening to Daniel's description of the Bitch Queen. "She was an out and out intolerant, bigoted and repressive bitch, Daniel," he said bitterly. "Look how she treated you."

Daniel shook his head. "I disagree, Jack. Look at it from her point of view. She's been brought up to consider that women are the natural rulers, yet within a few short hours she not only accepts that our ways are different, but attempts to treat us with some respect." He shook his head. "The last time we were in a similar situation on Simarka, Sam had to show her prowess and leadership by pushing the chief into combat just to gain his grudging respect." He glanced up at General Hammond. "She was a very intelligent and resourceful lady, sir. I would recommend that an all female team learn as much as they can about their goddess and their history."

"She invited you back, Daniel," Jack reminded him somewhat bitterly.

Daniel nodded. "But I would be treated much the same way we were today, Jack. I could learn from Essteron, but proper understanding would only come from an equal interchange. They have had contact with the Goa'uld. Essteron told me the towers were markers for the Stargate so someone felt it was necessary to provide a guide to something the Lady's people appear to see as a curiosity."

General Hammond nodded turning to wards Sam. "Would you agree with Dr Jackson's appraisal, Major Carter," he asked.

Sam nodded. "I had less contact with her than Daniel, sir, but I would have no hesitation in agreeing that she is a very intelligent and capable woman. Whether we have anything material to gain from the contact I'm not so sure, but all my equipment and samples were returned untouched so I can begin my investigations immediately."

"I would be fascinated to study their culture," Daniel added. "From what Essteron told me, and remember as a male he has both a limited education, and a natural inclination to submit to women, the females totally control fertility. Not just by individual choice, but also physically. I'm not sure that I understood what he meant, but it is certainly an interesting concept, and goes some way to explaining why women are the 'top dogs'." He looked briefly at Jack as he spoke, and Jack could see a faint smile hover over his lips.

General Hammond nodded again, looking towards Teal'c. "Any observations, Teal'c."

Teal'c shook his head slowly. "It is my belief that such a culture would be an anathema to the Goa'uld," he replied.

Daniel sat up. "Are you certain about that Teal'c?" he asked curiously. "What the Goa'uld seem to demand is 'perfect, and attractive hosts,' I mean the Goa'uld are actually sexless, so would they fall into this stereotypical attitude?"

Jack heaved a large sigh, but was beaten to the post by General Hammond.

"Interesting at the subject might be, Dr Jackson, I think you need to continue it with Teal'c outside of the briefing room," he said gently."

Daniel nodded, and Jack relaxed.

General Hammond looked round the table. "Anything further?" he asked. "Right, dismissed." He stood up from his chair, nodded to all of them, and left the room.

Jack stood up reluctantly. "Reports to me, not that Teal'c and I have much to contribute, do we big guy?"

Teal'c lips turned up slightly. "We did appear somewhat superfluous, O'Neill," he agreed.

"But admired, Teal'c," Daniel said a glint of amusement in his eyes. "The lady called you handsome a couple of times in my hearing." He glanced at Jack, a look of innocence crossing his face.

"Spit it out, Daniel," Jack growled, sure he was going to regret this and determined to make his friend pay at the earliest opportunity.

Daniel gave one of his rare smiles. "She referred to you as delinquent," he said sweetly. "I think it's a lovely description."

"Delinquent," Jack echoed, somewhat rattled. He rallied quickly, firing a recovering shot, aware of Sam and Teal'c's amused gaze on the pair of them. "A least I wasn't called 'pretty'

Daniel affected a note of bewilderment. "Pretty what?" he said, moving out of reach as he gathered his notes and walked to the door. "Pretty infuriating, pretty delinquent, pretty awful, or even sitting pretty from what I can see, all would be 'pretty' appropriate, Jack." He nodded at Sam and Teal'c, and left the room.

Sam didn't bother hiding her smile as she nodded at Jack and left. Jack raised his eyebrows, and looked at Teal'c. "You too?" he asked.

Teal'c didn't bother to pretend he didn't know what Jack meant. He gave a small bow, twitched his lips and preceded Jack from the room.

Jack's report was brief, succinct and pointed. He typed the last few words sitting back with the glow of a job well done, and busied himself clearing the rest of his in tray while waiting for the rest of his team's reports. Teal'c was very similar to his, Carter's speculated about possible trade, and Daniel's scholarly contemplation of the basis for such a society was remarkable in its total silence about the areas Jack was really interested in.

Jack frowned. What he wanted very much to know was what had happened when Daniel was separated from them. He wondered just how much 'kissing ' had gone on with the bitch queen, and he realised that he was extremely jealous at the implications of Daniel's encounters with Essteron. He'd understand what the bitch queen meant by Daniel and Essteron playing, and had felt a great sense of relief, and possessiveness, when it had become plain that Daniel had refused.

He wondered what the queen and Essteron had seen in Daniel. They'd both appreciated his looks, but that was an easy target. Daniel was very easy on the eye, masculine yet beautiful with an easy unconscious grace. Jack sat back in his chair and tried to answer his own question. Apart from his physical beauty, he loved Daniel for a number of reasons although his passionate nature tended to come top of the list. It might drive him mad at times, but he could live with that. He also appreciated Daniel's ability to let others take charge. He seemed to have none of the need to dominate that Jack knew was a large element of the military machismo, and to be honest part of his own makeup. He wondered if that was what made Daniel so attractive to the queen. Not only did he look like her favourite, but he also seemed willing to act like a 'boy' should act. Jack knew Daniel could grovel with the best, but he also knew that submissive Daniel was an act that pigheaded and stubborn Daniel was willing to play when necessary.

Glancing at his watch he put his questions aside, cleared his desk and headed for Carter's labs. She was busy examining something under her electron microscope. "Going home any time soon?" he asked.

She glanced up and waved at him. "I'm fine, sir. See you tomorrow."

Jack shrugged, and headed for Daniel's office. His archaeologist was just where he expected him to be perched on his chair typing furiously. Jack shut the door moving carefully into the crowded office. He glared ferociously at a small hideous mask placed at eye level. "Is that to put people off?" he asked, pointing at the thing.

Daniel looked up questioningly, glanced at the mask and smiled. "Could be, can't see that it's very effective though." He sat back from his typing and stretched. "Can I do anything for you Jack?"

Jack nodded. "I want you to come over for a meal and tell me all the bits that you so effectively left out from your report."

Daniel frowned. "Why?"

"Because I like to know everything that goes on with my team, Daniel. That way I learn as a leader, and we learn as a team." He looked at him sternly.

Daniel looked at him questioningly, but nodded slowly. "Okay, I'm not certain that I see the need, but if you insist."

"Over pizza," Jack added, "and I'm buying." He walked to the door. "Meet you topside in fifteen minutes. We'll take my car and you can stay over."

Daniel nodded returning to his computer, and Jack wondered whether he'd make it. He needn't have worried, although a couple of minute late, Daniel arrived having changed into civvies along the way, an all too regrettable plaid shirt thrown over a t-shirt, and jumped into Jack's jeep.

The conversation was desultory for most of the journey, consisting mostly of disagreements over the pizza they wanted. Jack let Daniel win, hoping to sweeten his mood. They pizzas chosen and paid for, they arrived home, and set to finding plates and drinks before relaxing with the food in front of the TV. Jack turned the set on low for the news.

"Carter wasn't too keen on the seafood," he said, biting into the thin crust with appreciation.

Daniel nodded, curling a recalcitrant piece of cheese around his tongue with consummate ease. Jack stopped eating for a second, watching the performance with some fascination. "The food was okay, it was the delivery that caused me the problem," Daniel finally said.
"I don't know how Essteron copes with it, but I have never been petted so much in all my life, I felt like a prize pooch."

Jack grunted. "Tell me about Essteron," he said quietly.

Daniel took another bite of his pizza, chewed it thoughtfully then glanced at him. "In what way?" he asked carefully.

"In the, far too pally and affectionate, sort of way, Daniel," Jack said, deciding not to beat around the bush. "I mean it might just be my poisonous little mind, but I got the distinct impression that both he and queen bitch wanted you to become far more than friends."

Daniel busied himself in eating another portion, while Jack kept his gaze on him. He finally finished, wiped his face and hands on a napkin and sat back. "You'd have been right," he said briefly, reaching for his beer.

Jack sighed. "I want details, Daniel, now."

Daniel glanced at him again. "Why, Jack? I mean is that going to help the team deal with unwanted advances, go into a 'how to reject an alien come on' manual, or give you a chance to laugh at my expense?"

Jack shook his head in frustration. "None of those, Daniel. Look, I'm responsible for you, I care about you, and I really want to know what you were dealing with while Carter, Teal'c and I were holed up elsewhere."

Daniel started at him for a second before apparently assuring himself of Jack's genuineness. "Essteron looked after me Jack. We did a 'get to know' a little more intimately than I'm normally used to I'd admit, but he backed off when I asked him too." He looked away from Jack, staring into the distance. "Yes, the lady wanted to see Essteron and I 'playing' a euphemism for sex as I'm sure you understood, but I got the impression that 'boys' were encouraged to make these kind of relationships. It would keep them occupied and happy, and as long as they were always ready to fulfil their mistresses' desires, it's probably seen as useful. The women certainly didn't expect to have anything but sex with their boys, they weren't lovers as we would understand it. You heard her say how bright Essteron was in comparison with his peers, and how much she appreciated that in him. It didn't stop her from treating him like a trophy wife though, did it?"

Jack nodded, aware that Daniel had skirted the issue somewhat. "How intimate a 'get to know' are we talking about, Daniel?" he asked.

Daniel stared at the floor. "I was stripped of my clothing, and invited to participate in a mutual exploration in front of a few other interested spectators," he said slowly. "There are some basic differences in our anatomy, some you might have noticed. The men don't have nipples or any body hair. They have gills in their necks, and their genitals are protected by a pouch that peels back when they are aroused. They can hear under water and they can locate underwater, possibly using a type of ultrasound." He looked up challengingly. "I can't tell you about the female anatomy because we never became that intimate."

Jack snorted, still a little fixated by Daniel's casual reference to the peeled back pouch and the revealed genitals. "No, but she was about to get her rocks off watching you and Essteron."

"That might be so, Daniel said slowly. "But she certainly expected to join in." He shook his head. "We can't judge them by our morals, Jack. Their world view is so different from ours."

Jack laughed. "Yea, well it's obvious that we have some things in common, I mean who wouldn't get their rocks off watching two beautiful men together?"

Daniel blinked, and Jack cursed his mouth. He sure hadn't meant to say that out loud.

"I can think of a number of men that could conceivably get their 'rocks off' watching two women, and I'm sure there are women who would appreciate watching two men, Jack, but I must admit that I would have pegged you more for the former than the latter, if I ever considered it at all," he said very slowly.

Jack nodded. "You'd have been correct, Daniel."

Daniel looked at him curiously. "Then why did you just say what you did, Jack?"

Jack sighed, looking at the last piece of pizza intently. "You remember the time when you were with SG-11, and Carter, Teal'c and I met up with our android doubles?"

Daniel nodded his head.

"Well my double told me something that's had me questioning myself for some time, Daniel." He took a deep breath and looked up into Daniel's curious face. "He told me how much he cared for all the team, what a great bunch they were, and how he didn't want to go on 'living' without them. But he also told me that he and your double had been lovers, and it shocked the hell out of me. I mean if he'd said Carter, I'd have just accepted it, we've been engaged in one universe and married in another..." He stopped and shrugged, "but in love with you?"

He looked across at Daniel who sat with his mouth wide open staring at him incredulously. "I went from that mission with so many questions. First of all I looked at the alternate universe scenarios. Carter's a lovely woman, I've noticed that, we've all noticed that."

Daniel nodded.

"But the main difference in all of the AU's was that you weren't part of the SGC, Daniel."

Daniel looked at him. "I'd noticed," he said somewhat wryly.

Jack smiled. "But what really made me sit up and notice was that our doubles were exactly that, our doubles, duplicates with all our memories, dreams, desires and hopes. Not alternatives with different backgrounds and upbringing, but us." He stopped and looked questioningly at Daniel who nodded at him. Reassured he continued. "So I thought if Android Jack fell for Android Daniel, then you and I have the potential to feel exactly the same way about each other, and to my shame I realised that I already knew that, I just hadn't been willing to accept it until then." He looked challengingly at Daniel, silently urging him to take the bait and run.

Daniel cleared his throat and stared at his beer glass. "I've always been aware of you," he said quietly. "I assumed that it was because we were so different, and I think in the early days I had a little bout of hero worship to deal with." He looked up suddenly and smiled. "Don't worry, that's all behind me now."

"Hero worship?" Jack asked in amazement. "Are we talking about you and me here, Daniel? Cos I'm telling you I must have missed it."

"Exactly," Daniel said, a small smile lurking on his lips. "You didn't need to know, and I sure didn't want you to be aware that I thought you were pretty damn wonderful. Fortunately regular contact with you hit that over the head pretty quickly, and you slowly became the best friend I've ever had. I'd never known anyone like you, knew nothing about the military mindset. With one exception, all my friends before Abydos were studious, academic and fairly serious. So I valued your friendship, and I valued your willingness to have me on your team, and I valued your determination to help me find Sha're." He looked seriously at Jack. "When all the chips are down, and when things look bad, I always turn to you, Jack. After I lost Sha're, you in particular, but also Sam and Teal'c became the most important people in my life. I love you Jack, and with very little effort I could be 'in love' with you, but I don't think you've really thought this through, and I have a feeling that it was my reaction to Essteron that triggered this declaration."

Jack narrowed his eyes. "So you're suggesting I'm being a bit 'dog in the manger' here, Daniel?"

Daniel nodded his lips tight. "It's the only reason I can think for you to suddenly come out with this, Jack."

Jack sighed, reaching for another can of beer. "Daniel, I've been sending you signals for the past few months, and you sure are a hard person to clue in."

Daniel blinked. "Signals?" he stammered. He looked thoughtful for a second. "You've been kind of flirting with me more than usual, but I only thought I noticed it because we'd been a bit distant for some time, and only recently got back into the way of seeing each other more frequently."

"I don't flirt," Jack growled.

Daniel blinked again. "Yes you do, Jack. I find it comforting to be quite honest."

Jack shook his head impatiently. "Daniel, will you just answer this question? Would you consider having a 'relationship' with me?"

Daniel dropped his head for a second, and Jack stopped breathing. "I don't think we should be having this conversation," Daniel said hesitantly.

Jack narrowed his eyes, Daniel was trying to wiggle out of it, and that was very unlike him. He moved into Daniel's space hauling the unsuspecting man to his feet. "How did the 'get to know' start, Daniel?" he asked, reaching up to the ubiquitous plaid shirt and tugging it down one arm then the other in quick succession. "You said it was skin to skin, was it arousing?" He tugged hard and the shirt peeled off. Daniel said nothing but his breathing quickened. Taking this as a positive sign, Jack removed Daniel's glasses and traced round Daniel's mouth. "Did he kiss you like I'm going to?" he suited action to words pulling Daniel into a gentle kiss. Daniel remained stiff for a few worrying seconds before melting in a totally satisfactory manner into Jack's arms and returning the kiss with interest.

Jack relaxed enjoying the kissing, but was determined to continue. "Did he kiss down your throat and nibble at your ear, Daniel?" he whispered, pulling Daniel even tighter as he did so. Daniel gave a sexy whimper and let his head fall back a little, exposing his neck. "Caress your back and play with your nipples? I bet they fascinated him didn't they?" He pulled Daniel's t-shirt up, gratified to feel Daniel begin to explore in return. "We need to get rid of this don't we, come on, raise your arms, Daniel."

Daniel proving more obedient in this than in most things raised his arms, and allowed Jack to remove the t-shirt. Jack stroked the smooth skin exposed and leant forward to kiss an exposed shoulder.

"He was naked too," Daniel whispered. "I explored him as much as he explored me."

Jack smiled into the shoulder. Daniel was getting with the programme here. Long fingers pulled at his over shirt and slid under his t-shirt until they were both in the some state of undress. "What next, Daniel?" Jack whispered, wanting Daniel to take some control back.

Daniel swallowed nervously. "He explored my genitalia, ran his hands down my legs and patted my ass," he said quietly."

Jack smiled. "We need to remove a few more clothes," he suggested gently tugging at the zip of Daniel's jeans.

Daniel responded in kind, kicking off his shoes and toeing off his socks as he assisted Jack out of his pants. Jack ran a finger down Daniel's chest to his groin and felt incredibly turned on and sexy. "May I?" he whispered, looking up into Daniel's wide eyes. Daniel nodded, and his semi erect penis twitched in anticipation. He ran his finger along the breadth of it watching as it expanded under his touch.

Daniel shivered, stifling a groan. "I'm not going to be able to stand much longer," he whispered in Jack's ear. "I'm so turned on, Jack I'm liable to shoot now and ask questions later." He burrowed his face in Jack's shoulder. "Damn you, Jack. I love you so much, but I'm telling you if you decide to regret this in the morning, I'm going to kill you."

Jack kissed the nearest ear and licked it for good measure. "Hey, who started this?"
Daniel sniggered, his breath snuffling erotically against Jack's chest. Jack kissed his cheek and stepped back. "Perhaps we need to take this somewhere where we can be horizontal, and slow it down a little?" He grabbed Daniel's hand and tugged him towards the steps to the bedroom. "And just to be crystal clear, I love you, I want you and I'm certainly going to respect you in the morning, and for a very long time to come."

Daniel ran an explorative finger down Jack's back making him shiver. "It's good job I've got a soft spot for delinquents," he said provocatively.

Jack smiled with his teeth. "I'm into cute and pretty in a big way myself," he said sweetly, swatting Daniel ass as he pushed him into the bedroom. "So get that cute ass in here, and show this delinquent Colonel how to have a good time." He never saw the move that had him flat on the bed with Daniel leering down at him, the light of battle in his eyes. "Sweet," he said appreciatively, "just don't forget the little knee problem."

As Daniel's shoulders began shaking with suppressed laughter, he did a sneaky about turn smiling down into Daniel's face with glee. "And don't forget everything's fair in love and war."

The end
Oct 2002













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